In 1972 the museum was spruced up and renamed for its famous architect, James Renwick (designer of the nearby Smithsonian Castle), then reopened as the home of the Smithsonian’s craft collection. The Renwick has since become renowned for its rotating exhibits of inventive, detailed, and even whimsical works of American art that appeal to all ages, such as “No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man” in 2018. Informative, docent-led tours of the Renwick’s collection highlights are available daily (except Sunday).
Things to know before you go
- Lovers of fine arts and modern art will enjoy this small museum.
- Scavenger hunt materials for children are available free of charge at the Information Desk.
- A museum store sells books, art supplies, and educational toys.
- Barrier-free ramp access is available at the 17th Street entrance; manual wheelchairs are offered at the basement security desk.
- Smoking, eating, and drinking are not permitted in the galleries; there is a café on site.
- To protect the artworks, tripods and selfie sticks are not allowed in the galleries.
How to get there
The Renwick is set across the street from the Old Executive Office Building and the White House on Pennsylvania Ave at 17th Street NW. It’s near several public garages and limited street parking is available throughout the area. It’s also close to two Metro stations: Farragut North (serving the Red Line) and Farragut West (serving the Orange, Blue, and Silver Lines).
When to get there
The museum is open every day of the year except Christmas Day (December 25). Free tours meet at the Information Desk in the lobby, offered Monday–Saturday at 12pm (except the second Tuesday of each month and all federal holidays). The Renwick attracts a great deal of foot traffic; it’s advisable to arrive early or late in order to have the most elbow room.
Originally built in 1859 to house the Corcoran Gallery—Washington DC’s first art museum, which soon outgrew the space and moved down the street—this ornate Second Empire building had become a decaying, almost-lost cause by the mid-1960s. It was saved from demolition by President Lyndon Johnson and declared a National Historic Landmark.
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